Edna's father was in the city, and had been with them several days. She wa_ot very warmly or deeply attached to him, but they had certain tastes i_ommon, and when together they were companionable. His coming was in th_ature of a welcome disturbance; it seemed to furnish a new direction for he_motions.
He had come to purchase a wedding gift for his daughter, Janet, and an outfi_or himself in which he might make a creditable appearance at her marriage.
Mr. Pontellier had selected the bridal gift, as every one immediatel_onnected with him always deferred to his taste in such matters. And hi_uggestions on the question of dress—which too often assumes the nature of _roblemwere of inestimable value to his father-in-law. But for the past fe_ays the old gentleman had been upon Edna's hands, and in his society she wa_ecoming acquainted with a new set of sensations. He had been a colonel in th_onfederate army, and still maintained, with the title, the military bearin_hich had always accompanied it. His hair and mustache were white and silky,
emphasizing the rugged bronze of his face. He was tall and thin, and wore hi_oats padded, which gave a fictitious breadth and depth to his shoulders an_hest. Edna and her father looked very distinguished together, and excited _ood deal of notice during their perambulations. Upon his arrival she began b_ntroducing him to her atelier and making a sketch of him. He took the whol_atter very seriously. If her talent had been ten-fold greater than it was, i_ould not have surprised him, convinced as he was that he had bequeathed t_ll of his daughters the germs of a masterful capability, which only depende_pon their own efforts to be directed toward successful achievement.
Before her pencil he sat rigid and unflinching, as he had faced the cannon'_outh in days gone by. He resented the intrusion of the children, who gape_ith wondering eyes at him, sitting so stiff up there in their mother's brigh_telier. When they drew near he motioned them away with an expressive actio_f the foot, loath to disturb the fixed lines of his countenance, his arms, o_is rigid shoulders.
Edna, anxious to entertain him, invited Mademoiselle Reisz to meet him, havin_romised him a treat in her piano playing; but Mademoiselle declined th_nvitation. So together they attended a soiree musicale at the Ratignolles'.
Monsieur and Madame Ratignolle made much of the Colonel, installing him as th_uest of honor and engaging him at once to dine with them the followin_unday, or any day which he might select. Madame coquetted with him in th_ost captivating and naive manner, with eyes, gestures, and a profusion o_ompliments, till the Colonel's old head felt thirty years younger on hi_added shoulders. Edna marveled, not comprehending. She herself was almos_evoid of coquetry.
There were one or two men whom she observed at the soiree musicale; but sh_ould never have felt moved to any kittenish display to attract thei_otice—to any feline or feminine wiles to express herself toward them. Thei_ersonality attracted her in an agreeable way. Her fancy selected them, an_he was glad when a lull in the music gave them an opportunity to meet her an_alk with her. Often on the street the glance of strange eyes had lingered i_er memory, and sometimes had disturbed her.
Mr. Pontellier did not attend these soirees musicales. He considered the_ourgeois, and found more diversion at the club. To Madame Ratignolle he sai_he music dispensed at her soirees was too "heavy," too far beyond hi_ntrained comprehension. His excuse flattered her. But she disapproved of Mr.
Pontellier's club, and she was frank enough to tell Edna so.
"It's a pity Mr. Pontellier doesn't stay home more in the evenings. I thin_ou would be more—well, if you don't mind my saying it—more united, if h_id."
"Oh! dear no!" said Edna, with a blank look in her eyes. "What should I do i_e stayed home? We wouldn't have anything to say to each other."
She had not much of anything to say to her father, for that matter; but he di_ot antagonize her. She discovered that he interested her, though she realize_hat he might not interest her long; and for the first time in her life sh_elt as if she were thoroughly acquainted with him. He kept her busy servin_im and ministering to his wants. It amused her to do so. She would not permi_ servant or one of the children to do anything for him which she might d_erself. Her husband noticed, and thought it was the expression of a dee_ilial attachment which he had never suspected.
The Colonel drank numerous "toddies" during the course of the day, which lef_im, however, imperturbed. He was an expert at concocting strong drinks. H_ad even invented some, to which he had given fantastic names, and for whos_anufacture he required diverse ingredients that it devolved upon Edna t_rocure for him.
When Doctor Mandelet dined with the Pontelliers on Thursday he could discer_n Mrs. Pontellier no trace of that morbid condition which her husband ha_eported to him. She was excited and in a manner radiant. She and her fathe_ad been to the race course, and their thoughts when they seated themselves a_able were still occupied with the events of the afternoon, and their talk wa_till of the track. The Doctor had not kept pace with turf affairs. He ha_ertain recollections of racing in what he called "the good old times" whe_he Lecompte stables flourished, and he drew upon this fund of memories s_hat he might not be left out and seem wholly devoid of the modern spirit. Bu_e failed to impose upon the Colonel, and was even far from impressing hi_ith this trumped-up knowledge of bygone days. Edna had staked her father o_is last venture, with the most gratifying results to both of them. Besides,
they had met some very charming people, according to the Colonel'_mpressions. Mrs. Mortimer Merriman and Mrs. James Highcamp, who were ther_ith Alcee Arobin, had joined them and had enlivened the hours in a fashio_hat warmed him to think of.
Mr. Pontellier himself had no particular leaning toward horseracing, and wa_ven rather inclined to discourage it as a pastime, especially when h_onsidered the fate of that blue-grass farm in Kentucky. He endeavored, in _eneral way, to express a particular disapproval, and only succeeded i_rousing the ire and opposition of his father-in-law. A pretty disput_ollowed, in which Edna warmly espoused her father's cause and the Docto_emained neutral.
He observed his hostess attentively from under his shaggy brows, and noted _ubtle change which had transformed her from the listless woman he had know_nto a being who, for the moment, seemed palpitant with the forces of life.
Her speech was warm and energetic. There was no repression in her glance o_esture. She reminded him of some beautiful, sleek animal waking up in th_un.
The dinner was excellent. The claret was warm and the champagne was cold, an_nder their beneficent influence the threatened unpleasantness melted an_anished with the fumes of the wine.
Mr. Pontellier warmed up and grew reminiscent. He told some amusing plantatio_xperiences, recollections of old Iberville and his youth, when he hunted
`possum in company with some friendly darky; thrashed the pecan trees, sho_he grosbec, and roamed the woods and fields in mischievous idleness.
The Colonel, with little sense of humor and of the fitness of things, relate_ somber episode of those dark and bitter days, in which he had acted _onspicuous part and always formed a central figure. Nor was the Docto_appier in his selection, when he told the old, ever new and curious story o_he waning of a woman's love, seeking strange, new channels, only to return t_ts legitimate source after days of fierce unrest. It was one of the man_ittle human documents which had been unfolded to him during his long caree_s a physician. The story did not seem especially to impress Edna. She had on_f her own to tell, of a woman who paddled away with her lover one night in _irogue and never came back. They were lost amid the Baratarian Islands, an_o one ever heard of them or found trace of them from that day to this. It wa_ pure invention. She said that Madame Antoine had related it to her. That,
also, was an invention. Perhaps it was a dream she had had. But every glowin_ord seemed real to those who listened. They could feel the hot breath of th_outhern night; they could hear the long sweep of the pirogue through th_listening moonlit water, the beating of birds' wings, rising startled fro_mong the reeds in the salt-water pools; they could see the faces of th_overs, pale, close together, rapt in oblivious forgetfulness, drifting int_he unknown.
The champagne was cold, and its subtle fumes played fantastic tricks wit_dna's memory that night.
Outside, away from the glow of the fire and the soft lamplight, the night wa_hill and murky. The Doctor doubled his old-fashioned cloak across his breas_s he strode home through the darkness. He knew his fellow-creatures bette_han most men; knew that inner life which so seldom unfolds itself t_nanointed* eyes. He was sorry he had accepted Pontellier's invitation. He wa_rowing old, and beginning to need rest and an imperturbed spirit. He did no_ant the secrets of other lives thrust upon him.
"I hope it isn't Arobin," he muttered to himself as he walked. "I hope t_eaven it isn't Alcee Arobin."